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Joe Arcieri Songs: The Untamed

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “The Untamed” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

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Yes, Topographic Drama – Live Across America: a Review

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

Yes has just released its latest live album called Topographic Drama – Live Across America documenting their 2016 tour.

The line-up Yes fielded on this album is:

The track list is as follows (the album from which the songs come in parenthesis):

Disc One:

Disc Two

  • Review:

I have written several reviews on this blog.  I have reviewed albums, concerts, movies, and books.  One of the things I have realized is that any review, whether good or bad or high quality or low, is almost always dependent upon what one expects from the thing reviewed.  Deviation from expectation nearly always leads to bad reviews while meeting expectations nearly always leads to good.  There is also the “damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t” variation of the expectations problem of making an album that sounds too much like prior albums (is this respect for an established sound or a reflection of a lack of creativity?) or sounding too little like prior albums (is this disrespect for an established sound and rejecting what Yes (or whomever) is “supposed” to sound like?); Yes’ last studio album Heaven and Earth suffered from this quandary (see here).  I have done my best to acknowledge my expectations when reviewing things, but I am sure I, too, have fallen victim to expectations.

I mention this because, as this is a Yes album purchased nearly only by Yes fans (I doubt many causal music listeners are buying a random new live album by a ~50 year old prog rock band that is largely out of fashion).   Jon Anderson, Yes’ co-founder, composer, and long time vocalist, left Yes in 2005 or so, and Yes has toured and released albums and videos without him since 2008.  It goes without saying that Anderson is enormously influential on Yes and, for many, is inherently identified with Yes.  Similarly, Chris Squire, Yes’ other co-founder who defined Yes’ sound for a generation and is the only member who never left the band and is the only member present in every official Yes iteration until 2015, died in June 2015.   Indeed, due to his constant presence in the band from its founding to his death, Squire, too, is often inherently identified with Yes.

I mention the above because, no matter what this album sounds like and no matter how good the performances are, this album will never pass muster or sound like “real Yes” for many fans.  Davison and Sherwood are different people than Anderson and Squire and, despite their similarities to Anderson and Squire, can never precisely duplicate Anderson or Squire (of course, if they did, they would be then accused as aping Anderson and Squire, which leads to an impossible conundrum: on one hand they are criticized for not sounding like Davison and Sherwood, but on the other, if they sound too similar, they are accused of being uncreative copycat hacks.  I suppose this is why some say Anderson and Squire should never be replaced and Yes should fold.).   In light of this, this album, and indeed this iteration of Yes, will never be heard in a positive way by many Yes fans due to its lack of Anderson and/or Squire.  So, just for full disclosure, while I am a Yes “fanatic,” I am of the school of thought that is willing to allow Yes to move on from Anderson and Squire and into a new reality where Davison and Sherwood are taking the band into its next phase of existence, and will judge it accordingly.

This album documents the 2016 tour.  I had the opportunity to see a show from the 2016 tour and most of my thoughts about this album mirror that show, so I will not repeat what I said about that show here; just look at my review for my thoughts on it here.  Instead, I will just focus on this album.

With the above out of the way, and in the light of the above, I can say that this album is an excellent album of well played and well executed Yes music.  The playing is at the level a Yes fan should expect.  The vocals are soaring and well harmonized.  The guitar playing is aggressive and intricate.  The drumming is solid and driving.  The keyboard playing, arguably the most questionable of the instruments in this iteration of Yes, are exactly what one should expect from a Yes keyboard player: Downes plays expertly and successfully adds his own flavors to Rick Wakeman‘s material albeit in his own style.  Finally, Sherwood’s bass playing, which is significant in Yes history as this is the first time Squire is not the bass player on an album, more than does Squire justice.  Sherwood plays all of the parts with heart and maintains a very Yes sound while giving his bass tone a sound unique to him.  Sherwood is somehow able to channel Squire, his style and sound, all the while sounding like himself at the same time.  It is really magical and exactly what one should expect from a Yes member.

The sound of this album is near perfect.  Every instrument is clearly audible, well balanced, and easily identifiable.  All the vocals, sounds, and playing are really crisp.

I loved hearing the Drama material, which from 1981 to 2008 was totally ignored, played in full here.  It was really special to hear “Into the Lens” and “Does it Really Happen?” as those songs have not been played live since 1980.  Perhaps most interesting is that this album documents a live performance of “Run Through the Light” which had never been performed live before the 2016 tour.

This album, to me, is a superb Yes album.  Unless one specifically listens for the stylistic differences between Davison and Anderson or Downes and Wakeman or Squire and Sherwood, I found it very easy to get lost in the music and sound and forget who is in the lineup.  This album, despite featuring a very new and different lineup, sounds like Yes and what Yes should sound like.

If I had to, there are admittedly some nits to pick.  The tempo in some of the songs is a tad slow (mainly the songs featuring White as the drummer).  So, “Machine Messiah” is a little slow, “Roundabout” seems a little slow to my ears (perhaps this is only in contrast to older live versions which were faster than in the studio), and “Starship Trooper” (though this is mainly Howe’s doing).  Of course, when it comes to “Starship Trooper,” its been slower since the band started trying to precisely replicate the studio version starting in 2013 (see here), and the slower tempo I hear is in contrast to older and faster live versions and not the studio version.  Some say “Tempus Fugit” sounds slow, but I think it sounds as fast as any live version I have heard and that, according to Howe, it has never been played live as fast as on the studio.  “Roundabout” is a snore to me (and usually skipped to be honest), but that is mostly due to it being utterly overplayed and over-included on collections like this.  Finally, it probably goes without saying that Davison was brought on board because he can sing Anderson’s songs well and in the same (or similar) register as Anderson and in a similar style.  Unfortunately, one of the featured albums on this collection is Drama which features Trevor Horn as lead vocalist.  Davison’s voice creates a little bit of a different feel for the Drama songs as compared to how Horn sang them.  For a lot of it, honestly, you do not notice it, but there are times, like during “Does it Really Happen?” or “Into the Lens,” where Horn’s vocals are short, crisp, trippy, or terse, as opposed to Anderson’s more soaring and melodic vocals, where Davison’s approach is a bit of an awkward fit to the music.  On one hand his vocals could be seem as an interesting approach, and a window into how Anderson could have approached this material, while, on the other, they seem ill-suited to the music which was crafted for Horn’s vocals.  Luckily those moments are fairly few and far between.  Indeed, for the heavy-duty Yes fan, Davison’s take on “Does it Really Happen?” could be an interesting insight into how Anderson would have sung the song were he to have remained in the band as it was, interestingly enough, originally an Anderson song (see here for a recording of the song with Anderson).  In fact, Davison sheds a little light on what an Anderson sung Drama could have sounded like in general.

I have to say that I really enjoyed this album as it shows a new Yes with energy that has its own stamp while, at the same time, sounding like how Yes is expected to sound.

  • Packaging:

The album is packaged as a digipak and the artwork is pictured below.  As one can see, the album artwork is standard Roger Dean work and also includes some quality photographs of the band.

  • Photographs:

Joe Arcieri Songs: Siddhartha

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Siddhartha” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: Old School

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Old School” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Yes Stats Update per 10/1/17 Show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes (technically Yes featuring Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman) play a show at the at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA on October 1, 2017 during the their An Evening of Yes Music and More Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogs of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned October 1, 2017 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

Joe Arcieri Songs: Serra

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Serra” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: Unfinished Business Part 1 (Stealth Mix)

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Unfinished Business Part 1 (Stealth Mix)” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Joe Arcieri Songs: The Mixer Part IIb

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “The Mixer Part IIb” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

 

Yesshow Review (with pictures): 8/14/17 Hershey

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, PA on August 14, 2017 during the their Yestival Tour.  You can read more about this show here.

The line-up Yes fielded that show was:

The set Yes played was (the album from which the song comes in parenthesis):

Recollections:

This concert was my twenty-fourth Yesshow and, at this point, it is difficult to say something that has not already been said.  Yes played one song from their first ten albums for their main set before the encore (although Steve Howe said first nine albums by accident).

  • Comments on Instrumentation

I suppose the drumming situation is what most people are wondering about, so, just to get that out of the way, the drumming arrangements, in terms of who played what, were as follows:

  • Survival: Howe and White
  • Time And A Word: Howe and White
  • Yours Is No Disgrace: Howe
  • South Side Of The Sky: Howe
  • And You And I
    • Cord of Life: Howe
    • Eclipse: White
    • The Preacher, the Teacher: Howe
    • Apocalypse: Howe and White
  • Leaves Of Green: no drumming
  • Soon: White
  • Going For The One: White
  • Drum Duet Intro and Don’t Kill The Whale: Howe and White
  • Machine Messiah: White
  • Madrigal: no drumming
  • Roundabout: Howe and White

Aside from the two drummers, Jon Davison played second guitar on “Survival,” “Time and a Word,” the end of “South Side of the Sky” (the keyboard/guitar duel), “Cord of Life” (the first time ever, as far as I know, someone played guitar with Howe on this section), “Soon,” “Don’t Kill the Whale,” parts of “Machine Messiah,” and “Madrigal.”  I have never seen the vocalist play guitar so much for Yes before.  So, that was pretty cool.  “Madrigal” and “Leaves of Green” were Howe/Davison duets with Sherwood coming on stage for some harmonies.  There was no keyboard for “Madrigal” (despite it being a harpsichord song).  It was rearranged for two acoustic guitars.  Howe played his Les Paul on “And You And I” instead of his Gibson ES 345, and his Switchmaster on Roundabout.  He still is still using his guitar synthesizer for his acoustic sounds (except for “Madrigal” and “Leaves of Green”).   He used his Gibson ED 175D on “Survival.”  On “Southside of the Sky” Davison sung Squire’s parts during the vocal interlude in the middle while Sherwood sang Anderson’s.

  • Goofs

At the beginning of the show, Downes played an extra cord or two accidentally as the introduction segued into the quiet acoustic guitar beginning.  S. Howe also lost his place in one of the transitions during “Machine Messiah” which led to him being out of synchronization with the rest of the band.  He wound up taking a measure off and counting with his hand before resuming the song.

  • The Rest

The show, over all, was vintage Yes and, of the 24 shows I have seen, probably fits in as an average show.  The playing was solid, the sound was excellent, and the mix was near perfect (perhaps due to me being in about the middle in the balcony).

Davison and Sherwood’s singing was the best I have heard from the pair, and Downes is more and more comfortable in the band.  Downes’ rig had a microphone but I did not see him use it, but he may have sang a little too.  Sherwood is the perfect Squire replacement.  His playing, his sound, and sometimes even his mannerisms remind me of Squire, so although I’d much rather have Squire, Sherwood is a worthy bass player and singer for Yes.  I would not want anyone else in that slot.  Howe was solid as always.

As far as the drumming is concerned, White looks terrible.  He can barely get around (walking I mean), and his playing was mainly very simple no frills top kit sort of stuff.  This is not a slight on him, his age and, more importantly, his back problems, have really caught up with him.  I suspect he remains in the band to give them credibility and authenticity in the face of a surging ARW, as it cannot be for his contribution to the music (which is minimal).  D. Howe did the heavy lifting when he was on stage, playing all the fills and fast parts and embellishments.  He needs time to get integrated in the band as the drumming, over all, was pretty conservative unfortunately despite the presence of two drummers.  Howe used a small and traditional jazz set (which looks a lot like Bruford’s set from back in the early 1970s) and, between that and his style, he really brought back the memories and sounds of Bill Bruford, and I am looking forward to more of that in the future.  I think there are a lot of possibilities with the drums with Howe, but their conservative approach this time around was disappointing.  Even Jay Schellen‘s aggressive approach from the 2016 tour was missed.  At least, however, the songs were played at the proper tempo.  I will say that the drumming during the “along the drifting cloud…” section of “Roundabout” (which is my favorite part of the song) was excellent due to the second drummer really ramping things up.  I usually lose interest during that song as it has been played at every show I have ever seen, but the second drummer really made this section powerful and exciting.  My comments about “Don’t Kill the Whale” are below.

Steve Howe seemed to struggle with his monitors all night, which caused him to be distracted at times, and his playing was affected as a result when that happened.  He was gesturing a lot to someone off stage over the course of the show and, as mentioned above, during “Machine Messiah” he seemed to miss a cue.  Judging from other shows from this tour, and my experience in seeing him over the years, it was not due to his playing I do not think.  It was just some weird glitches here and there.

Of course, in addition to the above, S. Howe also seems to scold the audience more than ever.  During the quiet parts in “Soon,” “Leaves of Green,” and “And You And I” he was shaking his head at people in the audience and waving at them as they were making, in his mind, too much noise.  As a result, he missed a note or two due to his distraction.  It’s a shame he does that as it does not do anything to enhance his playing.

Obviously Rick Wakeman and Downes have totally different styles and Wakeman is my favorite keyboardist.  Wakeman is an all time great, but Downes is really good too and while some of his approach to Wakeman’s songs may be due to not being quite as good a keyboardist, I think a lot of it comes down to style.  Wakeman plays tons and tons of notes and is very flashy, whereas Downes seems to approach the songs with a “less is more” approach.  This is especially evident on solos where Wakeman tries to play as fast as he can and play as many notes as possible all the time, whereas Downes tries to get into a grove and focuses on chords more than scales (which seems to be Wakeman’s go to form).  Wakeman has a special place in my heart, but I cannot allow that to lead me to conclude that Downes’ approach is “worse” or “bad,” it is just different at times and not what I am used to from my 26 years of Yes fandom.  I have certain keyboard solos and parts in my head sounding a certain way, and Downes has a different approach.  Sometimes “less is more” works as Wakeman over plays, and other times it doesn’t as it seems to forgo the excitement and flash of a good lightening fast Wakeman run.  It is give and take.  Downes is integrated while Wakeman stands out.  Both are legitimate.  This time around, “South Side of the Sky” had a better and more exciting ending than it has had on any prior tour with Downes, and Downes really got more into the honky tonk piano on “Going for the One” than on prior tours.  So, that’s something.  By contrast, on”Yours is no Disgrace,” Downes plays the barest minimum.  During the guitar interlude in the middle of the song Downes does not play at all, which is unfortunate as Wakeman added some cool parts to that section and, would you believe, so did Igor Khoroshev.  In fact, Khoroshev’s playing is probably my favorite keyboard interpretation of the song.  The lack of keyboards really, in my mind, makes the song too sparse.

Of course, what made the show worth it for me was “Survival” and “Madrigal,” both of which are virtually never played songs.  I only know of one performance of “Survival” (not including some lyrics here and there in the 1978/79 medley), and only a few of “Madrigal” from that same tour.  So, needless to say, after 23 previous shows, I am excited about the music that is new to me live, and these two certainly qualify and are surprising.  I really love “Survival” and this line up did it justice.  S. Howe and Davison did a great job with the two acoustic guitars at the beginning, Downes replicated Tony Kaye’s organ very well, and Sherwood’s bass was really angry and growly sounding.  It was very good despite the little goof noted above.  The singing was quality too with even S. Howe contributing some “aaahhhhs” during the verses leading to the chorus.  “Madrigal” was a little weird.  Originally it was a harpsichord song with light vocal harmonies and classical guitar.  It has never truly been played live as it was recorded.  Even back in ’78/’79 it was with electric piano and incomplete.  Now, in 2017, Yes rearranged it for two acoustic guitars and harmony vocals (between Davison and Sherwood).  S. Howe played the thematic harpsichord parts and his own guitar parts while Davison’s acoustic guitar filled in the gaps when S. Howe played his guitar solos.  It was short and sweet and really very nice, and the gentle quiet acoustic song was a good contrast to the rest of the set.

Aside from “Survival” and “Madrigal,” I was surprised to find that “Don’t Kill the Whale” was the highlight of the show for me.  This song does not really do much for me.  It’s not that I do not like it, I just find it a bit meh.  At this show, Yes decided to take advantage of their dual drumming situation and introduce the song with a drum duet.  White played a steady beat while D. Howe played fills and patterns over it.  Really cool.  This duet was then recapitulated in the middle of the song after the guitar solo.  Between S. Howe’s guitar tone and the heavy drumming, the song took on a really down and dirty sound that really made the song interesting to me and provided a cool new perspective on it.

Finally, the staging was pretty similar to what they had last year, but, in my view, not quite as good.  Regardless, I love how Yes are really putting some money into stage presentation and not just touring with a tiny screen or just the word “Yes” with lighting as they had on previous tours.

The show ended with a #Yes50 and I am really looking forward to it!  Hopefully a new album will be toured as well.  Time will tell.

  • The Other Bands

The Carl Palmer ELP Legacy Band and Todd Rundgren were the opening bands.  Carl Palmer rearranged some classic ELP songs for guitar and no voice and it was complete nostalgia.  The band came out to a video montage of ELP references on television in shows like Jeopardy, Cheers, and The Simpsons, which was pretty fun.  Palmer’s performance was really high quality, aggressive, and he shows absolutely no signs of age.  His performance was better than the other three drummers that took the stage combined.  As far as Rundgren is concerned, I had never heard of him before this tour and never heard his music.  He was really polished, with a great light show, and cool performance.  He had two attractive female backup singers in slinky dresses, so that was enjoyable.  He also used an old fashion broadcaster microphone, which was neat.

  • The Venue

Just a word on the venue.  This venue, as can be seen in the photographs below, is probably the most beautiful venue in which I have seen Yes play.  It was absolutely gorgeous, historical, in great condition, and looks like a medieval castle on the inside.

Photographs:

Yesstats Update: Post 8/14/17 Show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Hershey Theater in Hershey, PA on August 14, 2017 during the their Yestival Tour.  I will be posting a review soon.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogs of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned August 14, 2017 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

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